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Arrived on this page from a search engine and wondering what it's all about?
The first two paragraphs of tips, hints and advice on web site development will explain all
- not least why the content might seem a tad out-of-date!

THEY WERE THE BEST OF SITES
THEY WERE THE WORST OF SITES

Some things to consider when commissioning a business website
[with due deference to Charles Dickens]

Web address, keep your URL simple. Get a decent domain name.

Download time: Research suggests that around 8 seconds is as long as most people are willing to wait for a page to download. So ... keep it simple. Does your site need superfluous graphics, scrolling text and constantly running animations? Cutting edge technology has a place - but is it on your web site?

Make things easy on the eye, both aesthetically and with regard to making things undemanding to read. Newspapers are white with black text. There is a message there. Sunglasses should not be a requirement when looking at a web site! Maintain a corporate image with your off-line publications, livery and so on, and have each web page follow the same colour / layout / structure.

Content is king. The reason people will visit your web site is to gather information. That information should be presented in the correct fashion. Correct grammar and spelling should go without saying - but what about the text. Not every one can write a book, or a newspaper article, or advertising copy - so why should they be able to write web site copy? Get a professional to at least edit text. Oh and by the way, the web does have a 'style' of presentation of its text which differs from most other media, so simply 'lifting' text from corporate literature may not be the answer. Which brings us to the next point; static content does not attract return visitors. Keep content fresh, accurate and appropriate - give 'value' to the target audience [why are they visiting your web site?]. Update the content regularly - eg products, prices, news / PR, use bulletin boards, Q & A and / or real - time content.

Get the content on the screen - people will scroll down text if it something they need / find useful / interesting, but they shouldn't have to scroll down to find the name of the organisation whose front page they are looking at! To cut out the necessity for anyone to scroll across a page, set the page width at 750 pixels. Most monitors are set at 640 - 700. Hundreds of years of print have shown that readability is best at 1.5 to 2.5 alphabets [65 characters] this equates to 640 pixels.

Navigation - just because you know your way around your site, don't assume others will. Signpost things clearly. Have an unambiguous contents list. If every page has a 'return to home / index page' link then the visitor is only ever one click away from base - where they can start again. If your web site is a monster - provide a search facility.

Frames - don't bother! Contents lists can be easily added to every page, or make it easy to return to the index page [which contains the contents list] Frames can affect how pages are printed. They also mess up search engine referencing. As the URL will remain as the index page's it is also difficult to email [or identify] specific pages.

Links - if you are going to have links to other web sites, have them open a new browser window, otherwise people might not find their way back to your site. Make sure that visited links change colour, in a long list it is easy to forget where you have already been and where you have not.

Footnote:
Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. Aesthetics can be debated, but good web sites should address the criteria above. This is one of the prime reasons businesses should seek professional help when developing their web presence. Have input, yes. Discus options, yes. Set criteria, yes. Much the same as if you were, for instance, having an extension built on the factory. But you wouldn't draw up the actual plans yourself would you? So why ignore the experts when you are developing the one aspect of your organisation that you are going to present to the world, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year?

Copyright Rockridge Marketing 1997 / 1998 / 1999 / 2000 / 2001

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